The researchers found in their review that Western-based operation and communication strategies might fail particularly in areas that are culturally different from these models; given that messages cannot be clearly conveyed or that motivation strategies are not perceived as motivational. This lack of awareness might diminish or even prevent the successful outcome of a conservation project.
Another example is how cultures even define what a good leader is. Research in social psychology shows that while assertive and tough leaders may be more desired in Austria, Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico, the United Kingdom and the United States. Leaders who seek consensus and are intuitive may be more desirable in others places like Costa Rica, Sweden, Norway and the Netherlands.
Of the 15 papers surveyed, the research team found just over half (nine papers) did not mention the influence of culture on conservation leadership attributes.
The most mentioned leadership qualities across all the papers were;
- Motivating others
- Establishing a vision
While the least mentioned leadership attributes were;
- Research skills
- Risk assessment
- Development fundraising
The authors recommend that in order to improve conservation leadership, especially in multi-national and cross-institutional project contexts, future research should urgently explore the relationship between conservation leadership attributes and cultural context, and that when working in a particular country, region or with a specific group of people, identifying drivers of values, motivation, communication styles and group dynamics can be crucial in positive outcomes. They conclude their review in emphasising the need for cultural awareness leadership training and education.
For more information contact lead author Dr Tanja Straka - firstname.lastname@example.org
Author attributions: Tanja Straka, University of Melbourne, and Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research, Berlin; Payal Bal, CEED and SEES, the University of Queensland, and School of BioSciences, University of Melbourne; Colleen Corrigan, CEED and SEES, the University of Queensland; Martina Di Fonzo, CEED, the University of Queensland, and DEFRA, London; Nathalie Butt, ARC CEED, the University of Queensland, and School of Geography and the Environment, Oxford University.
A workshop organized by the Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions (CEED) Early Career Leadership Program provided the opportunity to develop the ideas behind this study.